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Piston Stories

Vehicles of Opportunity: How Donating Collector Cars Can Change the Future

Like people, every car has a story to tell. Such is the case for three cars donated to the Piston Foundation’s Cars for Piston Scholars campaign. The proceeds from the sales of these cars are helping young people achieve their dreams of becoming the next generation of automotive restorers.

The first two auction vehicles are a 1949 MG TC and a 1973 TVR 2500M donated by the late Richard Hall. The third car is a 1999 Mazda Miata Spec Racer and Bonneville land speed record holder donated by racing aficionado and entrepreneur Harvey Siegel. Both of these men and their cars share a storied history of heartfelt journeys, impressive challenges, and the road beneath one’s wheels; two separate adventures that overlap through the desire to uplift the future of their favorite pastime. These experiences last a lifetime and are the reason why both Harvey and Rick chose to pave the way forward with the donation of their cars so that the next generation of car people can build a life in the world of collectable automobiles. Here are their stories.

By Christopher Perkowski

June 18, 2024

A passion for British wheels

Cars had fascinated Rick Hall ever since the young age of 8, when his father took him to a repair shop and he first laid eyes on an MG TC. It became a dream of Rick’s to have his own MG, a dream that finally came true in 1965 during his high school years. Rick lived near Albany, NY and for decades after getting his 1949 MG TC, he would travel the region, showing it off to those he’d meet at car shows and the other gatherings. His longtime friend Brian Biittner recalls the day they first met at a dinner hosted by their wives. Brian broke the ice with the single mention of his Volvo 122 wagon. Brian recalls, “Rick’s eyes lit up as we shared our observations on the elegant design of vacuum depression carbs for the next half hour.”

Rick loved performing maintenance work on his cars. The excitement he gained from fine-tuning them propelled him to work on a custom car of his own, his TVR 2500. After a few years of work building the TVR in his garage, the high-powered fiberglass-bodied two-seater was finally complete.. Rick couldn’t wait to head out to Watkins Glen and do parade laps on the road course. His favorite thing about his TVR was that it “made cars really small in the rearview mirror.”

A need for speed, in a car that could use it

There is a legitimate pull among car enthusiasts toward building one’s own personalized vehicle, and Rick certainly wasn’t the only one who dreamed of creating a modified sports car. Racecar junkie Harvey Siegel also had a dream: to build a car he could race on the Bonneville Salt Flats to set a “rookie” land speed record. “Bonneville is the most captivating and exhilarating motorsports event I’ve ever attended,” he once said. It was the desire of testing the limits that led Harvey to set his sights on the 2011 Bonneville Speed Week.

Harvey has always been a firm believer in chasing one’s dreams, and while the idea of reaching a land speed record of 160mph may have seemed daunting at first, he was willing to give it his best shot. Harvey assembled a team of expert builders and technicians led by Ryan Pilla, and together, they set out on creating a Bonneville-worthy Mazda Miata racer, otherwise known as the 2160 (“Going to 160 mph”).

The key to going fast of course was the engine. The team built a one-off, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder producing upwards of 290 horsepower, more than double the output of the stock Miata engine. In addition to the hi-po engine and a modified suspension, the car was completely disassembled, stripped down and outfitted with the necessary safety equipment including a halo seat, full roll cage and fire suppression. The exterior was modified to make it as slippery as possible with covered headlamps, narrow front tires and aero wheel covers. But there was still the question: would all this be enough to break that coveted record of 160 mph? Only time would tell.

A small Brit with a big American heart

Rick Hall was also a huge believer in precision when it came to car modifications. One of the reasons he loved his TVR was because of how much time and care he put into it. A desire to own a custom TVR became a nine-year project that required more than a little car knowledge and patience to boot. But he set some hard rules upfront, which ultimately led to his success. The first was to “do one thing at a time” and do it as well as it could be done. Another was to “do all the modifications with as little disruption to the original car as possible.” But perhaps most importantly was to “re-check all fasteners before you move on.” It may have seemed like a small thing, as Rick noted, but it would surely come back to bite him if he didn’t do it.

Thankfully, all Rick’s hard work paid off and he ended up with a TVR with some impressive specifications. The modifications centered around swapping the 2.5 liter stock inline 6 for a 1989 Mustang 5.0 EFI engine with more than twice the horsepower. Rick also added a custom radiator and custom aluminum fuel tanks, Corvette alloy differential with a 2:82 final drive ratio, revised hood hinges, 15X7” Centerline wheels drilled to the TVR bolt pattern, Sunbeam Alpine rear brake cylinders, an LED third brake light, and more. In addition to his MG, the TVR became a daily driver, hitting the road in 1999 and covering about 30K miles since.

To go fast in a Miata, add horsepower, & salt

As for the Mazda Miata, it was ready to put its name of “2160” to the test. Harvey and his son Luke, arrived at the 2011 Bonneville Speed Week event with no practice runs beforehand, making them true rookies at the sport. They would each have one attempt to drive the Miata through the course. The average speed of their combined runs would be their result. Harvey was up first. While the engine had been dyno’ed, the rest of the car had not been tested beyond 40 mph on the local streets around Ryan Pilla’s shop. In his first attempt at speed, Harvey had to control a 9,000 rpm engine with just the right revs to reach the sweet spot of 125mph, as he threaded his car through the markers. “At a certain speed, you have no friends,” Harvey recalls. “It’s just you and the car working together, paying attention, doing things slow and measured, covering that giant white expanse. It’s a very surreal experience”

While Harvey did not end up going as fast as he would have liked during his run, Luke made up the difference. His blistering run of 173 miles per hour, netted them an average score of 165.296 miles per hour and a new land speed record. Together, they had done what had once felt impossible. They had a dream, did the work, and made it happen. “Without dreams, half the things on this planet would have never been done, “Harvey said. “And if you’re going to dream, why not dream big and shoot for the moon?”

Harvey Siegel has restored VIRginia International Raceway, created Camp Motorsports, and become a member of the Piston Foundation’s Founders Club.

The answer is always Miata

The thing about dreams though, is that once they are achieved and the sense of satisfaction and completion has passed, one question remains: what now? The Mazda Miata had helped Harvey realize one of his greatest goals, but now, he was getting old and no longer had much use for a car he wouldn’t be able to drive. While he couldn’t make much use of the Miata anymore, perhaps someone else could and maybe in doing so he could make a difference in the lives of those looking to pursue their own car-related dreams.

As one of the Piston Foundation’s first Founders Club members, Harvey knew the importance of nurturing the next generation of car people. He once said after becoming a Founder, “It’s incumbent upon people who’ve enjoyed the game to give back and inculcate the opportunities we had, making them available to young people”. So, it only made sense for one as in tune with the Piston mission as he, to turn to the Cars for Piston Scholars campaign and donate his Miata for the benefit of those in automotive training programs. He knew it would be the best way to honor the car that took him to such heights. In October of 2023, the world’s fastest naturally-aspirated Miata was sold on Bring a Trailer for a grand total of $30,000, all of which went toward creating scholarships for a new generation of car technicians.

The ever-changing future

As Rick got older, he knew he was unwell. His hands were shaky and he could not hold a wrench steady when repairing his MG and TVR the way he used to. Eventually, he had to admit to his loved ones and himself of his long-fought battle with Parkinson’s disease. Brian Biittner recalls it was not an easy time for his friend. Rick could no longer drive his cars, resigned to just looking at them in his garage. Brian would sit in Rick’s garage with him, sipping bourbon and admiring the fine lines of the MG TC and TVR. Seeing them there gave Rick a sense of comfort.

Rick was aware he was running out of time, but he was wise in the way he looked at his past and his experiences. His two favorite things to say at that time were, “Life’s short but it’s wide as hell” and “The future’s not what it used to be.” Perhaps something in that second saying struck a chord in Rick. His cars were his past, a past he wouldn’t trade for anything, but they could also be the catalyst for someone else’s meaningful future. Rick found this catalyst in the form of friend Gary Gold, who’d met with representatives of the Piston Foundation during a weekend at Lime Rock Park. Gary told Rick about the work Piston was doing and the difference his cars could make in building a new future for classic cars. Contributing his legacy to a new future sounded like the kind of purpose his cars should have. Sadly, Rick passed away in December of 2023, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of his friends, while his MG and TVR auction proceeds went on to make great impacts in the lives of new Piston Scholars.

Paying it forward for auto enthusiasts

Those of us at the Piston Foundation are extremely grateful to both Rick and Harvey for donating their prized vehicles to our future-focused cause. The proceeds from the sales of their cars has provided funding for eight Piston scholarships, meaning eight more scholars will have the opportunity to learn the skills Richard and Harvey championed.

Eight must be a lucky number as it just so happens there are eight current Piston Scholars who have graduated college this Spring and are now taking the next steps in their car-centric careers. To name a few, Sean Whetstone now works at Race Kraft and Design, a service and performance shop where he hopes to gain plenty of classic car experience. Zoe Carmichael continues her job at the Garage Automotive Museum in Kansas, working extensively with cars and spreading their stories. Jasper Fedders, loves working on engines and drivetrains and has found a summer role at a local shop where he can cultivate his passion. Joe Estevez got a job working in aerospace at Baker Hill Industries; he uses his knowledge in 3d printing and digital design to manufacture high-quality plane parts and one day hopes to transfer what he learns with planes back into cars.

Seeing all these successful scholars would surely make Richard and Harvey proud, knowing their beloved hobby and community are in good hands.

The Cars for Piston scholars campaign relies on the generosity of donors like Richard and Harvey to support Piston’s career path programs. Each car gains a new purpose and a new home and the young technicians we grant scholarships to get the education and training that unlocks an exciting new career in a much needed field. It’s a win-win for car people everywhere!If you’ve found inspiration in the tales of these two men and their favorite cars, then perhaps you’ll pave the way forward with a contribution of your own. Any classic or interesting car or motorcycle you are looking to sell or give away can instead be donated to the Cars for Piston Scholars campaign, with potential tax advantages for you. There are more aspiring technicians out there who need our help and your car has the power to do that. To learn more, please visit

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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